Archive for the ‘plein air’ Category

Dorris Ranch

July 27, 2014

Day one of the Field to Studio workshop at the Emerald Art Center in Springfield, OR. Nine artists joined me for three days of working on location and in the studio.

Field Study

Field Study

Field Study at Dorris Ranch in Springfield, OR

Studio Painting

The studio painting was done on Wallis Sanded paper starting with alcohol washes, and finished with soft pastel.

About the forth wash with hard pastels, alcohol,l and a hake brush

About the fourth wash with hard pastels, alcohol, and a hake brush

Hard pastels are applied lightly in layers with each layer washed in with at least 90%1 alcohol. This gives the underpainting a stained glass translucent effect upon which to further develop the painting with softer pastels.



Field to Studio

July 24, 2014

This past week I had the opportunity to work with a great group of artists at the Emerald Art Center in Springfield, OR. The emphasis of the workshop, Filed to Studio was gathering visual information on location so we could come back to the comforts of the studio to produce a painting. I have outlined below the steps we took along the way.

Big shapes, simple with emphasis on designing the painting. I tried a couple of different formats and decided on the portrait orientation to emphasis the vertical presence of the trees.


Value map using three values of tomboy markers and the white of the paper to limit the value structure to four values.

value map

Notan, a further simplification of values down to just black and white to see the underlying structure of the painting. f at this stage the shapes looked uninteresting or the distribution between the darks and light were two balanced I would revisit the composition and make adjustments.


My field study,  a 5 x 7 on Wallis Belgian Mist sanded paper to capture the color nuances of the scene. Done in about 20 minutes.

field study


Photgrahic references show how much the camera doesn’t capture, but are useful for details. As it turned out I didn’t really even look at these when back in the studio. How liberating is that?

photo reference

Sttudio painting done on Ampersand Pastelbord using a watercolor underpainting.

Delta Ponds


The best part of the workshop was how enthusiastic all my students were. They were not only willing to dive in and try new approaches but were so encouraging with each other and supportive of their fellow classmates. Read what  a student had to say.

Cool Day and Hot Picks

May 16, 2013


Hot Picks, 8 x 10 pastel on panel, ©2013 Marianne Post

Yesterday was the first “official” plein air gathering of our local group of artists known as Vistas and Vineyards. About fifteen hardy souls braved the rain and ventured forth among the hydrangeas and the rhodies to paint the rioting color at Garland Nursery in Corvallis.

Talk about a morning of sensory overload,  the nursery is filled with garden starts, herbs, flowering shrubs and over 70 types of tomatoes! I found refuge in the begonia and fuschia “barn” and found a vantage point overlooking the lettuce starts. The flowers were dueling it out with the signs for one’s attention. My intent was to capture the cacophony of color and finish sooner than later. After weeks of weather in the eightes, the dampness seemed to really sink in its teeth.

So Far

September 18, 2012

This past week I finally had a chance to revisit “starts” from  my five day Richard McKinley workshop in Bend. This was my first experience attending an Art in the Mountains event. Boy, does Tracy Culbertson, workshop coordinator, have the venue of all venues. The Cascades and downtown Bend are a mecca for inspiration. Coupled with a stellar instructor, and companionship of a fellow artist from California it was five days of instruction, beauty, discussion, and determination to go the next mile.

thumbnails of Sparks Lake

Thumbnails of major shapes, value map and notan design

As a plein air painter, the grandeur of the vista can be overwhelming. Having spent hours in the field, I would like to think I am comfortable in the wilds. But the reality is that I still try to depict the scene as I see it. Finally I was given permission to not only move a tree or a mountain but to capture the sencse of place without being wed to the what’s in front of me. In fact.I got to the point afer five days, to turn my easel away from the scene and paint from memory. What a liberating concept!

It all started with some thumbnails to define the shapes, value plan and composition. Then a quick field study, in this case a small 4×6 supplied me with color notes. Now back in the studio, I did a watercolor underpainting, referring to my field notes. After a day in the studio here is where I am so far. And it feels good!

Watercolor underpainting of Sparks LakeWatercolor underpainting

Work in Progress, Sparks LakeWork in progress, 16×20, pastel on panel

Does Painting Purple Mean I am Old

July 16, 2012

Height of Summer, 12 x 6
pastel on panel

This past week, California artist friend, Cheryl Crews, joined me to paint in the lavender fields of the Willamette Valley. We literally went from one end of the valley to the other in search of purple fields. On Wednesday we joined up with my local plein air group, Vista and Vineyards to paint at Moon Shadow Lavender farms in Albany, only to find our picture on the front page of the Albany Democrat Herald. Check out their Facebook page.

While Cherryl painted in oils and I in pastels our violet palette got a workout. One of my paintings from Mountainside Lavender Farms in Hillsboro garnered an honorable mention at the Yamhill Lavender Festival art show this past weekend.

In the Gardens

June 5, 2012

Halo in Peach, 9×12 pastel on LaCarte Sanded Paper
2012 Marianne Post

Last Wednesday, Vista and Vineyards, our local plein air group, met at Schreiner’s Iris Farm near Salem, OR. Talk about sensory overload. The day was spectacular… the sky clear, the birds singing, the flowers overwhelming. I set up in one of the demonstration gardens and made a stab of painting just a flower or two. What a challenge when everything in the garden begs to be captured. A delightful aside are the names of each variety. From Act of Kindness to Zip it Up there are some clever, thoughtful and humorous monikers. Halo in Peach crabbed my attention and became my subject for the day. Once again I tried using a toned surface, this time a blue-gray LaCarte sanded paper. It looks like this year my plein air outings are experiments in different surfaces and techniques just to mix things up a bit.

I just started reading Richard Schmid’s Alla Prima, Everything I know About Painting. In the opening pages he writes, “Don’t be afraid to learn…Profit from your failed paintings.” So trying something new, not expecting to create a masterpiece is liberating. Have you tried something new in your own work?

Trying Something New for A Change.

May 18, 2012

Garlands Nursery

Garlands Nursery, pastel on LaCarte sanded paper

This past Wednesday was the first outing of the local plein air group. Traditionally the first venue we paint is Garlands, the local, quintessential nursery. It has everything any green or purple thumb could ever imagine. It also has many places to duck undercover in case the weather doesn’t cooperate.

Forecast: warm and sunny
But this week the weatherman predicted clear sky and mid 70s. I decided before packing to go that morning, that I would try using some orange La Carte sanded paper, a real departure from my usual Amperdand Pastelbord. My thinking was that the orange would work to my advantage in setting the stage for a sunny day painting, and also work as a complement to all the green I was bound to encounter. And I admit, “I’m trying something new.” could also be my excuse in the event of a really lousy painting.

Warm and cool
My approach was to depict the light of a sunny day, by starting with warm colors in the sunlit masses and cool colors in the shadows, regardless of the local color. I gradually brought the masses to their real color but always letting some of my first marks show through. I also left the edges loose so that the orange paper would unify the painting and add shimmer to the piece.

The end result was okay! I had a lot of fun getting this “to work.” I’d try it again, actually. But perhaps I should invest in a lot of blue La Carte to use on those Oregon gray days we so often encounter! Have you stepped out of your comfort zone lately and tried something different for a change?

Broken Mirrors

March 1, 2010

What do broken mirrors and plein air umbrellas have in common? I’ll explain. But first let me say I am not superstitious. Over the past two weeks I have broken two mirrors. For those who believe in bad karma associated with such a happening you might think I am headed for a double dose of bad luck. And on my way into town the other day a black cat darted out in front of my car. The cat made it across the road safely but was this yet another sign? Literally, lucky for me I just read that black cats are a sign of good luck. So not to worry.

While cleaning up the studio on Saturday, I can across a plethora of plein air umbrellas. It seems like in the quest for the perfect plein setup I have acquired more than my share of these things. A white one, a gray one, a vented one, a large one, a small one.  Some are stand alone models, some attachable. So to purge my stash I opened and closed each to see which one would be the keeper, and which would be relegated to the giveaway pile. And then a thought crossed my mind: should I be doing this inside? I reminded myself I am not superstitious.

On Sunday I caught up with my husband in Oregon. And when we got to our room I couldn’t help but notice the number on the door, 313. So is someone really trying to tell me something or is this just all a coincidence not worth concern?

But the real question I have for you is this. Has anyone found the perfect plein air umbrella?

Wetlands Revisited

February 22, 2010

work in progress, pastel on Pastelmat

Last Fall I painted along the Consumnes River. Upon scoping the area for a vantage point to paint, the fog lurked over the wetlands. And just about the time that I set up my easel, the sun strained to break through the veil of mist. The atmospheric condition mother nature presented was awesome. How fortunate to be an artist and witness the beauty that surrounds us.

This morning the fog hung over the hills in Vacaville and it reminded me of that time in November. Serendipitously while packing the studio today I came across some Pastelmat peach colored paper. I had to put a halt to packing and from memory relive that glorious November moment.

Since a lot of my supplies are either packed or stashed some place that I can’t put my finger on them I used  technique that I haven’t done in awhile. In thirty minutes I blocked in the masses,  just enough to capture the feel. Then taking a paper towel I smeared the surface to give the “underpainting” a gauzy feel. A few more minutes and a few more marks is where I left off. Still more to do, but working from memory is challenging (there’s that word again!) and invigorating. Reality  and the clock reminded me that boxes were waiting to be filled. I’v made a deal with myself. SIx more boxes than I can paint. Is that yet another “challenge?”

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

December 14, 2009

Suisun LandingSuisun City Landing, 9 x 12″
soft pastel on Wallis with watercolor underpainting
© 2009 Marianne Post

Earlier this week I blogged about heading into the studio to “resolve” a plein air study done along the slough in Suisun City. You might recall that the day was pretty cold and my study reflected the coolness of the moment. In the studio, I wanted to change the temperature of the light, to warm it up a bit and also enlarge the piece from 8 x 10″ to 12 x 16″.



Pictured above is what initially came off the easel. I let it sit until the afternoon and when standing back and looking with fresh eyes, the first thing I said to myself s “what’s wrong with this?” I certainly didn’t like the bland mass of water in the foreground. I took out my notan and immediately saw (again with fresh eyes) that even at that point I was struggling with the cropping and the resolve of uninteresting shapes. I suppose my subconscious felt like it could deal with it in the painting process and my excitement to get on with the painting overpowered my left brain.

So I got out my “croppers,” pieces of L-shaped mat board to try different croppings. By eliminating a good portion of the water, more interesting shapes appear. Likewise, in cropping the sky mass, the focal point point becomes much stronger.  The light masses in the sky and water lead the eye right to the building. I should have realized in the notan stage when things weren’t going well there to take  a few extra minutes and resolve the issues at that point. After all, that is the purpose behind that whole step of my process. In the long run I could have saved time and pastel. But the learning experience, as they say, “is priceless.”